President Joseph F. Smith died on 19 November 1918, having served as President of the Church since 1901. Vigorous, steadfast, and sincere in doing the work of the Lord, he had given his life to teaching the truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He was a preacher of righteousness, a prophet of God, who urged the Saints, “Follow me as I follow our head, the Redeemer of the world.”1
President Heber J. Grant, who succeeded Joseph F. Smith as President of the Church, said at his graveside service: “For 36 years I have been with him, first when he was a counselor, and later when he was President of the Church. During all these years I have never known of anything in his life, in either word or act, that was not worthy of a real man. I could say in all sincerity, ‘He was the kind of man I’d like to be.’ Standing here by his grave, I desire more than language can tell, the power and ability to be as kind, as considerate, as forgiving, as brave and noble, and true, and to walk in very deed in his footsteps. I could ask nothing more.
“… For no man that ever lived had a more powerful testimony of the living God and of our Redeemer than Joseph F. Smith. From my earliest childhood days he has thrilled my very being with the testimony that he has borne to all those with whom he has come in contact, bearing witness that he knew that God lives and that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, the Redeemer of the world. The very spirit of inspiration that was with this man found lodgment in my heart and in the hearts of many others. I loved Joseph F. Smith as I never loved any other man that I have ever known. May God bless his memory.”2
The following testimony is taken from an address that President Smith delivered at Provo, Utah, on 13 January 1907.3
I desire to read from the writings of Moroni, wherein he quotes the teachings of his father, Mormon.
“And now I, Moroni, write a few of the words of my father, Mormon, which he spake concerning Faith, Hope, and Charity. …
“… I would speak unto you that are of the Church, that are the peaceable followers of Christ, and that have obtained a sufficient hope, by which ye can enter into the rest of the Lord, from this time henceforth, until ye shall rest with him in heaven.” [Moroni 7:1, 3.]
… What does it mean to enter into the rest of the Lord? Speaking for myself, it means that through the love of God I have been won over to Him, so that I can feel at rest in Christ, that I may no more be disturbed by every wind of doctrine, by the cunning and craftiness of men, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; and that I am established in the knowledge and testimony of Jesus Christ, so that no power can turn me aside from the straight and narrow path that leads back into the presence of God, to enjoy exaltation in His glorious kingdom; that from this time henceforth I shall enjoy that rest until I shall rest with Him in the heavens.
I desire to impress this thought upon your minds, for I want you to understand that this is the meaning intended to be conveyed by the words, “entering into the rest of God.” Let me assure you that that man who is not thoroughly established in the doctrine of Christ, who has not yielded his whole soul unto the Lord, and to the Gospel He has taught to the world, has not yet entered into that rest. He is still at sea, so to speak, wandering, unstable, lacking firmness, lacking the faith that cannot be moved, ready to be overtaken by the cunning and craftiness of him who lies in wait to deceive and mislead into error and darkness. While he that has received the testimony of Jesus Christ in his heart, he that has yielded his all to the kingdom of God and to the will of the Father, is so established. His heart is fixed; his mind is made up; doubts have been dispelled; fears have all been removed; he knows in whom to trust; he is thoroughly established in his purposes and in his determination that, as for him and his house he will serve God, keep His commandments and walk, as far as it is possible for human creatures to walk, in purity of life, in honor, fidelity, and uprightness before the Lord.
I thank my God that this spirit and feeling of unrest has been removed from my thoughts and mind with reference to the work in which we are engaged; and that the Lord has given me assurance that is beyond all other things in relation to this matter. I rejoice in the Gospel; I rejoice in the testimony of the Spirit of God in my heart; I rejoice in the testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith; I rejoice in every principle of the Gospel of Jesus Christ that we have become acquainted with, so far as my knowledge goes. I cannot ask for, I do not want anything better than the principles of life and salvation revealed in this great plan of redemption restored to the earth in the latter days. …
… If our hearts are fixed with proper intent upon serving God and keeping His commandments, what will be the fruits of it? What will be the result? … Men will be full of the spirit of forgiveness, of charity, of mercy, of love unfeigned. They will not seek occasion against each other; nor will they take advantage of the weak, the unwary, or the ignorant; but they will regard the rights of the ignorant, of the weak, of those who are dependent and at their mercy, as they do their very own; they will hold the liberties of their fellow-men as sacred as their own liberties; they will prize the virtue, honor and integrity of their neighbors and brothers just as they would appreciate and prize and hold sacred their own.
We cannot reach at once that high moral standard of perfection that was promulgated by Him. And while we are conscious of the fact that we cannot at present attain to that perfection, and cannot grasp the whole as we should, yet the mark is there, the standard is before our eyes. We are looking forward to the time when we may reach that glorious and exalted standard set for us by the example, the life, and mission of the Lord Jesus Christ. Though we fail to come up to the perfect standard that God manifested through Jesus Christ, yet we will repent of our failure, and will renew our determination, and double our diligence tomorrow. Aye, this moment we will double our diligence, try to overcome our weaknesses, and come nearer to the example set us by the Son of God.
This is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and it is true doctrine. The man who will obey it, who will enter into the spirit of it, and cherish the spirit of it in his heart; who has this desire in his soul and seeks for that desire to become paramount to all other desires, will go on from faith to faith, from hope to knowledge, from understanding to wisdom and power, and finally to exaltation and glory in the kingdom of our God; and there is no power beneath the celestial kingdom that can stay him in his progress, if he will but strive to keep the laws and commandments of God. …
… When we make up our minds, as did Joshua of old, that we will serve God this day, and from this day henceforth we will serve Him and keep His commandments, then we are beginning to be able to divide the darkness from the light, the good from the evil, the right from the wrong, that which is pure from that which is impure; and from that moment your desire for good will grow stronger and stronger, and you will become more proficient in doing good and in accomplishing the purposes of God, in overcoming your own weaknesses, in proportion as you are diligent in forsaking evil and choosing good, by desiring good and eschewing evil, and turning away from the world and from the appetites of fallen human nature, and assist in doing that which is calculated to exalt mankind, to exalt the aspirations of man, exalt his purposes and enlarge his charity, his love and his forgiveness. Then you are able to discern the light, as the prophet has said; you may do it just as clearly, as unmistakably as you can discern the light of day from the darkness of night. [See Moroni 7:14–15.] …
Let me read you this:
“Verily, thus saith the Lord, it shall come to pass that every soul who forsaketh their sins and cometh unto me, and calleth on my name, and obeyeth my voice, and keepeth my commandments, shall see my face and know that I am.” [D&C 93:1.]
This is the word of the Lord. It is not easy for a man to see God’s face and know that He is, who forsaketh not sin, cometh not unto God, who calleth not on His name, who obeyeth not the voice of God, who keepeth not His commandments. Shall he see the face of God, and shall he know that He is? No, there is no such promise; but to the contrary. It is he that “cometh unto me;” he that “forsaketh his sins;” he that “calleth on my name;” he that “obeyeth my voice;” he that “keepeth my commandments.” It is he that “shall see my face,” says God, and it is he who shall “know that I am,” and not only “know that I am,” but he shall know that “I am the true light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” [D&C 93:2.]
What a glorious promise is held out to the children of God. … If Jesus Christ, the only begotten of the Father in the flesh, received not a fulness at first, and thereby was called the Son, but continued to receive grace for grace, adding grace unto grace until He received a fulness, it is clear that he that will walk in His footsteps, who will obey His precepts, and will adopt His plan for life and salvation, may receive grace for grace, may continue from grace to grace; may grow out of imperfection into perfection, and may receive here a little and there a little until he shall receive the fulness as the Son of God received a fulness; and thus become like Christ the Son of God, an heir of God, and joint heir with Jesus Christ. [See D&C 93:11–14.] I feel incapable of giving utterance to the thought and feeling that is burning in my soul, awakened by this word of Christ, this glorious opportunity that is granted unto me through obedience to the commandments of God, through keeping the word of the Lord, that of becoming possessed, by and by, of the fulness of God’s glory, a fulness of knowledge of the truth, a fulness of power, a fulness of wisdom, of possessing power and dominion and glory like unto the Father.
Does not this give you something to live for, something to hope for? Is there not here a prize that is priceless held out unto you; offered to you through your obedience, your faithfulness, your accepting the light, walking in the light as Christ is in the light; that you may have fellowship with Him, and that the blood of Jesus Christ may cleanse you from all sin? I thank my God for this holy Gospel; I thank Him for this aspiration, and this hope that is inspired in my soul to become worthy of my Father and my God; worthy to dwell with Him, worthy of exaltation in His kingdom, and of enjoying His presence and His favor throughout the countless ages of eternity.
I know that it is the Gospel of Jesus Christ that will enable me to attain to this exaltation, and there is no other way given by which man can be saved; no other plan revealed in the world by which man can be exalted and return again to the presence of God. There is no other way. …
Have all things been revealed? No. Has God yet other things to reveal to His children? Yes, many; but we are not yet prepared for any greater light than has come; for where much is given much is required; and much has already been given to us, and God requires more of us to-day than we give Him. We will not walk in the light as He is in it; we will not obey the truth as He requires us to obey it. We yield to our own weakness; we yield to the temptations that beset us, to our own appetites, to our own selfishness, and to our own human desires instead of rising above the weakness of mortality and saying in our souls, “As for me, I will serve my God, keep His commandments, and walk blameless before Him.” We do not do it; yet the Latter-day Saints are the best people in the world. We are living nearer to this standard than any other people in the world to-day, with all our weaknesses and imperfections.
Now, the Lord bless you. May peace abide with you, my brethren and sisters. Get the faith of the Gospel in your hearts. Learn that this religion that is given to you through Joseph Smith the prophet is God’s religion, is God’s law and God’s requirements of His children upon the earth, and that this is above everything else. It is above self; it is above the world; it is above gold and silver, houses, and lands; it is above mortal life itself, because in it we are not only secured in our person and in our rights and privileges, but we are secured in the gift of eternal life, which is the greatest gift of God.
There is nothing to compare with it. It is the biggest thing in the world—the greatest thing on earth—it is the most momentous thing for us in all this world—[it] is God’s truth, the religion of Jesus Christ, the doctrine of redemption and of salvation from sin, from our own weaknesses, and of a thorough and perfect engrafting of the spirit, and of the work, and knowledge, and power, and wisdom of God, the giver of all good. Peace be unto you, and may the blessings of health and love abound with you, in every walk of life, in every capacity in which you act, that you may have the fear of God before your eyes all the time.
But I do not want you to think for a moment that the religion of Jesus Christ is burdensome or heavy upon you. Not so. God has said, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” [Matthew 11:30.] It is redemption from sin. The slave is not he who has been redeemed and lifted out of the bondage of sin, but it is he who remains a debtor and a prisoner to sin. He is the slave; he is the bondman; such as he needs our pity, our sympathy, and our commiseration. It is he that we should try to raise above the bond of slavery and sin, to enjoy freedom from sin and transgression.
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is capable, and was capable while He dwelt in the flesh, and is capable today, of enjoying everything that is possible for righteous persons to enjoy; and there is not one thing of which He was deprived that is worth while. The same is possible with the Latter-day Saints. “Oh,” says one, “if I would live your religion as you point it out to me, I would have no more enjoyment, my pleasures would cease.” O, thou fool. I can enjoy every legitimate, every righteous pleasure that any man on God’s earth can enjoy; and if I am more faithful than my brother in keeping the commandments of God, I may enjoy more than it is possible for him to enjoy. In proportion to your fidelity, your faithfulness, your advancement in the knowledge of God, shall you be able to enjoy happiness, unalloyed and unsullied, for it is the Gospel that brings true joy, and true liberty and freedom from the bonds of iniquity, and the gall of bitterness.
God help us to see the truth, and the light as in the day time and to discern it as clearly as we can discern the light of day from the darkness of night, is my prayer, in the name of Jesus. Amen.
What does it mean to “enter into the rest of the Lord”? How can we obtain this rest?
How can we yield our whole souls to the Lord and His gospel?
What can we do to better reach for the “exalted standard” set for us by the Savior?
What does it mean to grow “from grace to grace”? What can we do to ensure that we continue to grow in this way until we receive a fulness?
What glorious promises are made to those who strive to become like the Savior?
As your faith in Jesus Christ has grown, how has He lightened your burdens and given you rest? (See also Matthew 11:28–30.)
What experiences have helped you to understand that all peace and happiness can be found through the gospel of Jesus Christ?
How has your study of the gospel of Jesus Christ, as taught by President Joseph F. Smith, helped you to learn more about God? feel true joy and peace? become more like the Savior?